Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Failure of Success

"It's a massive fall-off. And it's basically because ISIL is a failing entity now. [Its] appeal rested on its strength and its winning."
"Now that its losing, it's no longer attractive."
"It's like after the Afghanistan war in the 1980s. They'll be asking themselves: 'What's next'?"
Peter Neumann, director, International Center for the Study of Radicalization, King's College, London

"If you look at one side, fewer people leaving would also mean fewer people getting radicalized and also being passed out from Syria and Iraq to commit attacks."
"But if you look at the summer, you see what kind of attacks we've had [France, Germany, Belgium]. We had people who had been radically inspired and [ISIL] took a position where they claimed them to be their soldiers."
Wil van Gemert, head, operations department Europol, EU law enforcement agency

"It's a five-letter word, and it's called intel. The only thing you can seriously do is to ramp up the ability to track and keep track of those who are here and those who are coming here."
Francois Heisbourg, presidential commission on defence and national security, France

"If the tyrants have closed in your faces the door of hijrah, then open in their face the door of jihad and make their act a source of pain for them."
"The smallest action you do in the heart of their land is dearer to us than the largest action by us, an more effective and more damaging to them."
Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, Islamic State spokesman (since deceased)
As of December, up to 31,000 people from at least 86 countries had traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight with ISIL or other extremist groups, says international security consulting firm Soufan Group.
Militant website via AP, File   As of December, up to 31,000 people from at least 86 countries had traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight with ISIL or other extremist groups, says international security consulting firm Soufan Group.

Reducing the number of eagerly committed jihadists making their way from Europe and North America to Syria to live a reconstructed life of leisure and occasional combat in Raqqa, to be available for the caliphate to deploy them when, if and as needed as a force of military arms in the name of Islam has succeeded in demoralizing those eager recruits unable now to go beyond their own borders, with internal security intelligence alert to their intentions.

And those who do succeed in bypassing the barriers imposed by  government agencies instructed to withdraw passports and place a watch on the activities of those identified as would-be jihadists, latterly face another roadblock with Turkey finally putting the latch on the open border between itself and Syria, intercepting travellers to fight in Syria, and returning them whence they came, disappointed and sometimes resigned, sometimes not.

It's the 'sometimes not' category that concerns government intelligence and security. There are ample examples of that category of citizens who have decided to turn against their own governments, incited by the propaganda of Islamic State, rejecting the values of democracy for the greater aspiration of achieving a broad global caliphate and punishing the non-believers who react to the perfectly acceptable plans of jihad by defensive action interpreted by the faithful to Islam as 'Islamophobia'.

The decline of foreign fighters eager, willing and making the effort to join the ranks of the caliphate-loving jihadis should be a matter of Western-sourced self-congratulations. But second thoughts always bring to mind the previous episodes speaking loudly of accepted alternatives; if those disposed to become ISIL fighters are held back from going abroad, they react by heeding the instructions of ISIL propagandists to do whatever damage they are able to incur, right where they are.

A peak of two thousand fresh foreign recruits a month crossing the Turkish-Syrian border has declined to a low of 50 making that trek monthly. The original declaration by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that ISIL was open for business excited the imagination of young Muslims at the prospect of a new world order they could become an integral part of. But their access to Syria now actively blocked by Turkey, finally turning away from supporting ISIL to opposing it and now cooperating with NATO to restrain new recruits and return them whence they came, calls for alternate action.

Experts in the field of military conquest and subterfuge in warfare now point to a new phase where those aspiring to conflict in the name of ISIL, make do with planning attacks right where they are, since travel abroad has become difficult. In France, authorities warn the nation that 700 French  citizens or residents of France remain in Syria and Iraq fighting, but they will return. Their return will signal a new front opening and France has already experienced assaults ascribing to ISIL's campaign.

France is not alone; Germany, Belgium, United States and Canada have suffered through their own bouts of home-grown Islamist malignancy. ISIL's spectacular, swift and early march through Syria and Iraq effortlessly beckoned new recruits happy to stream through Turkey en route to Syria, their destination one of conquest, echoing the historical rise of Islam fourteen hundred years ago and never ceasing since then as it rampaged, scimitar in hand, through the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.

An estimated 31,000 foreign fighters from broadly 86 countries travelled to Syria or to Iraq for the purpose of joining Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or alternately other fanatical jihadist groups, according to an international security consulting firm, the Soufan Group. The infidel nations could only shudder in disbelief as t heir borders leaked second- and third-generation immigrants to join the universal struggle against the unbelievers.

Militant Islam is resourceful, adaptable and determined. As the ranks of new fighters diminish, the stay-at-homes by default exercise alternate options. The jihad watch has switched to domestic terrorists; how to identify them, how to restrain them, how to possibly retrain them to reject jihad and re-adapt themselves to life in a liberal democracy. But to adequately keep watch, each suspect must have a group of agents assigned to his case. The burden is more than most agencies can bear.

And the matter is clear enough that security agencies in all targeted countries are ill-prepared to manage the consequences when persuasive calls to ISIL sympathizers reawaken that bright eagerness to become a martyr for the universal cause of the Islamic caliphate, for to bypass that call is to demonstrate lack of faith, identifying oneself as unworthy and expendable. The motivation is there to entice the willing for Islam is a coercive faith.

AP Photo, File
AP Photo, File    ISIL militants in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armoured vehicle in Mosul, Iraq, in 2014.

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